Metro to Middlesboro: Teachers are Teachers

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

There is an innate human need to feel a sense of belonging. We want to belong to communities and groups. We crave social interaction and love to feel like a part of a team. Sometimes this can be a great thing, but it can also lead to us feeling divided. Are you Cards fan or a Cats fan? Pro-Oxford Comma or Anti-Oxford Comma? Do you cheer for the Steelers? Bengals? We make these arbitrary distinctions and cling to them for a sense of belonging when we are really more similar than we think.

There has felt like a disconnect between urban and rural teachers since teaching began. Urban districts are sprawling and vast with intricate assignment plans and transportation issues. Our rural siblings don’t have dozens of schools to keep track of or deal with the transient nature of urban populations. Our rural friends deal with issues not faced by urban educators, such as a lack of collective bargaining. These distinctions are not things that need to drive us apart. When it comes to education, we all suffer from the same crises.

Students suffer due to generational poverty and the trauma associated with it in every school district in Kentucky. In every system throughout our Commonwealth there are children suffering the effects of systemic poverty. The causes of the poverty and trauma may have different methods, but the result is always the same. The work done to defend public education in any area focuses on every child across Kentucky. At times, legislators seek to further the divide between teachers and communities by pointing to our differences. While others seek to divide us, we continue to come together to keep education equitable for every single child living in our state.

Working together, we are building a better future for our state. We know what works in education because we are the educators. We know that smaller class sizes work from Jefferson to Monroe to Calloway and Pike. We know that certified, highly qualified educators work from Fayette to Clinton to Union and Harlan. We know that educating early and often through universal Pre-K works from Franklin to Ballard to Letcher and Gallatin. We know what works and it works inside the Golden Triangle and in every other corner of the state. As educators, we know what is right for our kids and we know that we need these things to ensure hope for every Kentucky child. 

We have made so many connections from our fights in Frankfort. I’ve met so many amazing people from outside of Jefferson County. When I talk to them, they talk about the same problems my students face. One of the best experiences I’ve had is becoming more active in our union, both through JCTA and KEA. Through our union, I’ve created ties with incredible educators in every region. Meeting teachers from across the state has been invaluable as we work together to strengthen our profession for our kids. While anti-labor politicians seek to weaken us, now is the time to join together to fight. 

As educators, we already know the idea of PLC – professional learning community. These are the teachers we work and share with in our building. We know about PLN – professional learning networks. These are the teachers we reach out to and work with when we need to work outside our building. We need to take this concept and apply it to our political needs for education. We can reach out across the state to reach educators who are working for our kids every day.

Teachers are teachers no matter where we work. We all want our students to succeed and thrive. We don’t want our students to survive; we want them to live and be the amazing humans they were born to be. Educators know that our students are capable of amazing things and working together is how we can achieve that goal. Teachers are teachers, but students are our future and teachers know that more than anyone.

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